Precious Life and Losing Yourself

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Soleil and Dino Walker

Life is so precious. Having a child who smiles and laughs at the simplest of new things awakens such a deep profound joy in your heart. It makes you realize how important life and love is. A fire burns inside of you to protect those you care about, and to make sure they live as joyfully as possible.

Earlier today, we lost a good man, Trey Pennington. The level of shock and mourning online is unprecedented in this community, and there is good reason for that. Trey was one of the most encouraging, kind people on the interwebs. He was a good soul who benefited many people’s lives, mine included.

Trey

Trey wrote on my wall yesterday, sharing a small success with one of my clients in encouraging fashion, as was his way. It seemed very much in character. It has already been said, but like Olivier, I am just heartbroken.

As with many people I associate with online, I did not meet Trey in real life, but we talked a bit over the years. He shared his frustrations with writing a book, and we both had a common dislike for some of the behaviors popularity-seeking top bloggers exhibited. But Trey would always gently encourage me to stay focused, and keep using my online skills for good.

And like Trey, I also went through a separation, and it just devastated me, causing a deep depression. We were fortunate, and worked it out. Two years later last October, Miss Soleil joined our family. Caitlin was 39 and I was 38.

To a great extent, my troubles were caused by an overvaluing of my import online. Looking back I can see how lucky I was to have recovered what had carelessly been thrown away. Now I am blessed enough to be a father, my most important job in life.

The circumstances of Trey’s death don’t matter to me. What is important is the encouragement and the reminders, which I will choose to keep and remember. Further, I will pass them on. Trey’s legacy will live.

It’s so easy to lose yourself in this rat race online. Twitter followers, Google+ suggested recommended list, on and on. And the way some people lord their following and sense of self-import cannot help but feel like an attack on your worth in a faux attention economy.

Maybe you have been fortunate enough to become well known and liked. That can be a Faustian trap, luring your mind and heart to chase false idols.

But know this, friends, it’s bullshit. It really is. An egregious sense of import takes hold, and we become distracted from what really matters, those loved ones who are near to us that rely on our daily contributions. There are also those who are more distant, but look to us to lead, or to share our experience, strength and hope.

No one will remember you for your blog rank or your follower count. They will remember you for the impact you made in real lives. This is what matters. Sometimes we have to make that impact even if it is not known or recognized. Compassion and giving is not about fame. It is about making the world a better place.

At times we cannot help, but become lost. Grace can save us. In the worst scenarios, even that is not enough. Darkness can take us. But those we have impacted will remember the kind acts.

Sometimes when I hold Soleil and play with her or drop her off at day care, it brings tears to my eyes. She is here in spite of my poor judgment three years ago. I know how lucky I am, and I am so grateful.

Hold your loved ones this Labor Day weekend. Feel and know in the deepest part of your soul that esteem is a derivative of doing esteemable things, not from winning the attention rat race. Understand how precious life is, and spread compassion. It may just make a difference where you least expect it.

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  • Anonymous

    It’s a beautiful post Geoff and I am glad to have met you in Atlanta few years ago. The pressures and pace of online can be stressors for many mental illnesses. I am just devastated that Trey didn’t have a support system that was able to recognize the signs. We lost one of the good ones.

    • Anonymous

      We did, but we can carry his torch. I, too, am glad to have met you, Jacqui, and I am grateful that you have remained in touch. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/thebrandbuilder Olivier Blanchard

    Thanks for writing that.

    • Anonymous

      I was no where near as close to Trey as you were, and certainly his family must be suffering.  My deepest condolences to you and those in Trey’s immediate life. This is very upsetting, it scared me because I know it could easily be any of us. He was such a good man.  My prayers and thoughts are with you, Olivier.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heidi.massey Heidi Ketroser Massey

    Geoff, thank you for doing what you always do so well. Making concrete all those thoughts we have that we may have trouble verbalizing. Sad, sorry day with a loss like this. Following my own advice, when I tell you that you have had a profound impact on my life in so many ways. I appreciate you-who you are and what you stand for. Thank you.

    • Anonymous

      Just devastating, I wouldn’t expect to feel this way, but I do. So many of us do. I hope we all continue our paths forward in, but in a better way as a result of this. Perhaps we can make even this dark cloud have a silver lining.

      Thank you, Heidi, for your kind words and support. I am so happy for you and how this media has empowered you to become a change agent. It’s a good thing.

  • Rosy Villa

    Beautiful!

  • http://womeninbusinessradio.com Michele Price

    Geoff, thanks for writing that, I know as well how painful and devastating a divorce can be.  Trey has always been incredibly kind and we spent hours talking.  He always thought of others first. 

     I will take from this a knowing that he wanted us to live in our own brilliance.  He wanted happiness for us and he had a great way of calling us on our stuff in charming ways.  As he said to his daughter “Are you Copernicus   When did you become the center of the Universe?” with his fun charming and yet fatherly way when his kids would become full of themselves.  His ability to use stories and philosophy to find a solution was amazing.

    I just wish he could have found it for himself.

    How will you be amazing in memory of Trey?

    • Anonymous

      He had many good lessons for all of us… I’d like to elevate my conversation a bit in lieu of his reminders. I wish I had thought to do that before he died, not that it would make a difference, but you know…

  • http://www.stevenwb.com swbuehler

    My own thoughts: http://bit.ly/o0NmaU

    • Anonymous

      I wonder what his family would think if they read this. Depression is not resolved with finger wagging…

      • http://www.stevenwb.com swbuehler

        Where are we ‘wagging fingers,’ Geoff? Did I mention (or did you miss it in my response) that I’ve lived with depression since grade school (I’m pushing 40 now)? Nobody’s blaming anybody, as much as we’d like to find something/someone to blame.

  • http://www.thestudyofsocial.com Matt Hixson

    A very nice post. Thanks for reminding us of what should be important. I didn’t know Trey but my heart goes out to his family and those if you that were close to him.

  • http://twitter.com/ProfS Kathy Snavely

    Thanks so much, Geoff.  I’m sure others who adored Trey are finding comfort in your words, as I have.

    • Anonymous

      I am sorry for your loss.

  • Jeannie

    I love this post for so many reasons. Thank you, Geoff. It is hard to accept. Trey was authentic and generous.

    • Anonymous

      He was a good egg.  I hope his family can find solace in this troubling time.

  • http://cloutandabout.com/ Clout & About

    Great post, God bless.  Many of us are shocked as well.  This big Twitter world today seems pretty small.

  • http://www.wflconsulting.com Jane Boyd

    A lovely post and excellent reminder to all of us about what matters the very most.

  • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

    I don’t know what to say. This news is completely devasating. Thank you for writing this, and for sharing a part of you.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Gini.  Have a good day, and I enjoyed your post, too.

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  • Anonymous

    What a well-written, wonderfully heartfelt post, Geoff. This line might be the “gem” in an already beautiful post. 

    “No one will remember you for your blog rank or your follower count. They will remember you for the impact you made in real lives.” 

    What a great reminder to live everyday to the fullest and try to be the best person that you can be.  Thanks for sharing! 

    • Anonymous

      We need to remind ourselves of this often. It is so easy to get distracted.

      • Anonymous

        100% agreed, Geoff! 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this post Geoff. So hard to understand this sad, sad loss.

  • Erica Allison

    Beautifully poignant post and reminder to us all to focus on what’s really important, not the bullshit that can give us a false sense of it all.  Your daughter is beautiful and I’m sure she can feel how much you love her and appreciate the gift that she is in your life. I feel that with my own daughter (now 3) and my son (8); they are a gift to be treasured.  Thank you.

  • Jan Ryan

    Praying for the day when mental illness is accepted like any other kind and there is applause rather than stigmatism for seeking help.  Also for the day when mental health professionals have better understanding of brain chemistry and more tools for relieving illness.  Without speculating about any individual’s issues, depression is a heartache for all who live with it:  the victim, the family and friends.  It has never received the research and treatment development that it deserves.  As it is often onset during childhood and adolescence, to victims who are too young to recognize they’re not alone and to ask for help (which is basically non-existant for kids anyway) the tragedy is multiplied.

  • http://frankdickinson.me/ Frank Dickinson

    Thank you Geoff for writing this…you give words to what I cannot express right now.

    Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/allenmireles Allen Mireles

    I found this post comforting and inspiring, Geoff. Thank you for sharing this with all of us and for highlighting what matters–and what really does not. xoxo

  • jeffachen

    So sorry to hear about your colleague and friend. Thanks for posting the words of inspiration.

  • jeffachen

    So sorry to hear about your colleague and friend. Thanks for posting the words of inspiration.

  • http://www.dayngrzone.com/ Dayngr

    Wonderfully written and so important to remember.

  • http://twitter.com/skypulsemedia Howie at Sky Pulse Media

    My sister has a husband who has been sick with depression since he lost his job in December. Except for therapy trips he has not left the house or seen anyone but her since then. Until late spring he was suicidal. My poor sister was given the choice of divorcing him because he was unworthy of her (his statement) but then he would kill himself, or live in a surreal world where mental health is affecting her greatly but where most people don’t get that it is an illness. Some of us can’t just recover from some events and the rest of us who do have a hard time empathizing. ‘Lost your job? I did too. I went and got a new one. You should too’.

    I think we have to value the important things in life and never take anything for granted. I hope Trey can peek into this online world where he has gotten so much love.

    • Anonymous

      So well said, Howie. I don’t think it is a question of toughness.  We are chemical machines in our heads, and sometimes things break down.  That’s life.  Helping each other through these times is the mark of compassion.

      • http://twitter.com/skypulsemedia Howie at Sky Pulse Media

        We are more than chemical machines. We are a trillion individual life forms bonded together with chemicals and electricity and all have to do their job right or we are completely messed up. And unlike Humanity a Blood Cell can’t tell Mommy Blood Cell they want to be a Liver Cell instead LOL

        So I actually am amazed as living entities we do as well as we do considering the circumstances. 300million of us can’t live properly in the US never mind if we had 1 trillion.

        But yes this world needs more compassion very much so.

  • http://www.realityburst.com Eugene Farber

    It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there so personally Geoff. Any time something like this happens it is a shock. 

    Everyone should read these words: “esteem is a derivative of doing esteemable things, not from winning the attention rat race”

  • http://www.realityburst.com Eugene Farber

    It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there so personally Geoff. Any time something like this happens it is a shock. 

    Everyone should read these words: “esteem is a derivative of doing esteemable things, not from winning the attention rat race”

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